City of Joyful Dread

I caught a fever, a holy fire

Month: August, 2014

In Terrorem


LA proved too much for the man
earthquakes, riots, wildfires, floods
dateless nights, endless bummers
Clippers & Kings & terrible things
brass knuckles, scorpions, gambling rings
the Hallmark poet who wrote
we shared a smoke and a smile/as we cruised for a while
the televangelist who said
don’t worry about tomorrow
fake pity in the City of Dreadful Joy
& nobody walks in LA
nobody walks in LA

Too much for the man, he couldn’t make it
but the wilderness years back East a toxin
his Nixon a noxin
the City of Brotherly Love in flames
half-brothers in chains
Manayunk was the jawn
West of 40th was Nam
& the war drags on
two years became ten
ten more, twenty two
five lovers, one ghoul
Rodney King in a pool
pretty little fool
was he playing dead or keeping cool
was he playing dead or keeping cool

so he’s leaving a life he’s come to know
no more mumbling jungles
no more fumbling uncles
no more Hollywood Road off Route 38 West
no more Pleasure Palace or the Treasure Chest
the pastors & bastards swore the meek would be blessed
the oppressed are the best
no one needed to bleed but nobody can rest
no more winterludes
no more blood on the tracks
no more tracks of my tears
no more tears of a clown
once the King of Jeans had a dream & a crown
but the whole jawn came down
the whole jawn came down

He said he’s going back to find
what’s left of his world
so he beat it out of Buffalo
& shuffled off to San Antone
Austin, Tustin, the road unknown
Tucson, Tujunga, Tom Joad, Tom Jones

& Morrison sang, come with me dance
my dear

in the nominal summer

come with me dance
my dear
winter’s so cold
this year

in the summer
in the terrible summer

out here on the perimeter
there are no stars

so he pawned all his hopes
even sold his old car

out here on the perimeter

we are all stars now
naked, shrouded, scared
memory unmoored
untrack the trains of the working poor
men in chains have a strange allure to conform,
reform & resurrection
she was half-black but lived in the Mexican section
midnight train departed, half-hearted complexions shouting
no future for you, no future for me
& anger is an energy
& within each of us is the kingdom of heaven
the Old World is 1977
the Old World is 1977

out here on the perimeter
we are all stars now but some of us aren’t
the dearly deported, half-hearted death warrants,
Bonnie Parkers with darker skin
& death is the wages of sin
she was half-black but lived in the Mexican section
do the wretched of the earth even know that they’re wretched?
black masses, like Moors
like Waco, just pure
then wasted, murdered,
burned out at the border,
blacked out, tortured,
Black Hundreds or more
a Hundred Years War
& you’re the only one I adore

la mestiza vivía donde hace calor
todos sus terremotos seran el mejor
porque tienes miedo si tienes amor?
allí donde hay pobreza, hay siempre dolor

& we’re on the run
we meaning me or the we of one
my will be done
I will be released, I will overcome
in the darkest hour I shall be overwhelmed
I will lay me down in a Memphis motel
where you can hear Donnie Brooks singing “Mission Bell”
& a black angel unchains the pain from her cell
& I walk with her as we descend to hell
I’d rather live in her world
than live without her in mine

Photo courtesy of




dark faces in dark cages
warm wild nights of rages

Photo courtesy of

Odd Numbers

Why does the poet
always play “Take Five”
during readings
when it takes more than five?
Sometimes it even goes
up to 11.

If I ran this town,
“everyone else is doing it”
just wouldn’t cut it.
We would have to do it

We would have seven weeks off
every year
just to contemplate
this mess we’re in
or blow it all up
& make a new one.

If I ran this town,
all the speed limits would be 33 1/3
like a record, baby

(Why is the revolution like a record?
Because it’s groovy, man)

But records are obsolete
So is revolution
So is God
So are we
We can transcend at the dark end of the street
There’s time, but time fades away
Only poetry lingers